AG Racine Leads 52 Attorneys General Urging Congress to Pass the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act

Bipartisan Legislation Would Help Families of Officers and First Responders Lost to COVID-19 Receive Federal Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody today co-led a coalition of 52 Attorneys General urging Congress to pass S.3607, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act (SAFR Act). The SAFR Act would permit families of first responders who sustain a permanent disability or die as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) to receive the same federal benefits extended to families of first responders who are otherwise killed or injured in the line of duty. Under current federal law, survivors only receive benefits if they can provide proof that the deceased or permanently disabled first responder contracted COVID-19 while on duty. These federal benefits are administered through the Department of Justice’s Public Safety Officers Benefits Program, which provides disability benefits to first responders or death and education benefits to their surviving families.

“First responders are protecting and caring for our neighbors who have been stricken by COVID-19, and too many have sacrificed their lives doing so,” said AG Racine. “The least we can do is provide their families with access to critical federal benefits should their loved ones pass or suffer a disability because of coronavirus. The overwhelming bipartisan support from 52 Attorneys General speaks to our shared sense of obligation to honor these first responders and their families for their sacrifices.”

The SAFR Act would establish a temporary presumption that officers contracted COVID-19 while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of a first responder’s last shift. For the families of officers and first responders who are lost while fighting the pandemic, the SAFR Act helps to remove unnecessary barriers to benefits already promised under federal law. The SAFR Act is sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. It recently passed the United States Senate and is now under consideration in the House of Representatives.

In a letter sent to Congress today, the 52 Attorneys General urged quick passage of the SAFR Act. The Attorneys General note, “When public safety officers are called to respond, they do not know whether they are coming into contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19. We have seen harrowing stories about how public safety officers have taken heroic actions to save the lives of others, knowing that they risked infection in doing so.”

A copy of the letter is available here: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-05/NAAG-Multistate-Letter-SAFR-Act.pdf

AG Racine co-sponsored this letter with Florida AG Moody. The Attorneys General joining the call to action include: Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

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